Jury acquits ex-coach Gilkey in felony embezzlement trial

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital

Scotty Ray Gilkey was found innocent of embezzlement Friday following a felony trial that concluded an agonizing, two-year ordeal for the former Pawhuska football coach.

An Osage County District Court jury of seven women and five men returned a unanimous verdict of not guilty at 2:24 p.m., just an hour after being sent out to begin its deliberations.

Gilkey, 39, faced up to five years imprisonment, if convicted. In his closing argument Friday, District Attorney Rex Duncan had asked the jury to assess the maximum fine ($5,000) and a reimbursement fee of $2,500.

Associate District Judge B. David Gambill presided over the trial.

Fourteen prosecution witnesses were among the 18 persons who testified during the four-day trial. Allegations against Gilkey involved proceeds from a Fourth of July fireworks stand operated in 2012 — a month after he had been hired to be the head coach at Pawhuska High School, his prep alma mater.

While the fireworks stand started out as a fundraising project for the football program, its status became unclear when it failed to receiving sanctioning approval from the local school board. Among other things, there were concerns that the football stand would hurt sales for a long-standing fireworks operation held to benefit PHS cheerleaders.

Several witnesses accused Gilkey of failing to share proceeds from the football stand with the cheerleading program as he allegedly had promised to do during a June 2012 meeting of the school’s sports booster organization. They said Gilkey became evasive when he was questioned about the fireworks operation during the organization’s October meeting.

Among those who testified were two PHS assistant coaches who said they had been fired by Gilkey after inquiring about the fireworks-stand funds.

Gilkey was Pawhuska’s head football coach for approximately six months before he was suspended in early November 2012 as the Huskies were preparing for a game in the state playoffs.

At the request of Pawhuska school district officials, an investigation of school finances was subsequently conducted by the Osage County Sheriff’s Office. The felony charge filed in May 2013 accused Gilkey of misappropriating approximately $2,500 in fireworks stand proceeds belonging to the school district.

Associate District Judge B. David Gambill presided over the trial.

Gilkey did not testify at the trial. He has maintained, however, that the charges were a result of community dissatisfaction related to his handling of the PHS football program. Gilkey said part of the dissention was caused by his starting a son, then-freshman Scotty Gilkey, Jr., at quarterback.

The former PHS coach still faces a seven-count misdemeanor charge of embezzlement in which his wife, Jennifer Gilkey, is also named as a defendant.

After graduating from PHS in the mid-1990s, Gilkey served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps before playing football collegiately at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and Eastern Illinois University — where he was a teammate of Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo. Gilkey previously was an assistant coach with prep programs in Illinois, Bartlesville, Tulsa Washington and Union.

Gilkey Jr. played in the Jenks program last year and is now a varsity quarterback at Broken Arrow.